Religion and Suicide Risk: A Systematic Review

Arch Suicide Res. 2016;20(1):1-21. doi: 10.1080/13811118.2015.1004494.


Although religion is reported to be protective against suicide, the empirical evidence is inconsistent. Research is complicated by the fact that there are many dimensions to religion (affiliation, participation, doctrine) and suicide (ideation, attempt, completion). We systematically reviewed the literature on religion and suicide over the last 10 years (89 articles) with a goal of identifying what specific dimensions of religion are associated with specific aspects of suicide. We found that religious affiliation does not necessarily protect against suicidal ideation, but does protect against suicide attempts. Whether religious affiliation protects against suicide attempts may depend on the culture-specific implications of affiliating with a particular religion, since minority religious groups can feel socially isolated. After adjusting for social support measures, religious service attendance is not especially protective against suicidal ideation, but does protect against suicide attempts, and possibly protects against suicide. Future qualitative studies might further clarify these associations.

Keywords: religion; spirituality; suicidal ideation; suicide; suicide attempt.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Minority Groups
  • Protective Factors
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Religion*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Isolation
  • Social Support
  • Spirituality
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data